In writing academic papers, it is important for the writer to observe general as well as specific rules. This is important for a student to get an A+ grade and avoid other serious consequences such as being expelled from the institution. Some of the serious offences include plagiarism regardless of whether it is intentional or not. Even though the tutor/lecturer may request different styles, there are rules for the basic format that have to be followed for all professional papers. These include the logical sequence of contents of the paper from the topic, introduction, theory, main discussion, and conclusion including the references.
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According to (Sternberg, 2008), an effective academic paper must be written using the required basic format even though there are different styles. If the writer decides to deviate or make an alteration, it should be with a good reason. The basic format is appropriate in writing papers on theoretical ideas that answer a particular question but for other types of papers such as on pure theory, some adjustment is necessary. It is therefore important for the writer to understand the importance of transforming good ideas into writing good papers because this is not an easy process. Each part of the paper must be understood about what it is meant to accomplish. If a proper format is not followed, the structure, as well as the content of the whole paper, may impede instead of helping the reader in understanding the main points. This is a common problem in reading papers especially if the reader is not careful when reading them. In this paper, the basic format will be explained along with the specific rules for writing an efficient paper. Each particular sub-section will explain various related rules.
(Sternberg, 2008) argued that, an effective paper must address the main points and the writer must not make attempts to enrich his/her paper with too many asides. The writer should avoid comments that suggest implications that is not important in developing the central point. It is advisable to have a paper that is narrow and focused because it would be more useful than one that is rich but is ignored. Regarding the structure of the paper, the introduction is very important because it determines how much the reader will be interested in the rest of the paper. If the introduction is confusing and the reader cannot see the important issues dealt with in the paper, he/she is likely to pay little attention to the rest of the paper or even ignore the whole paper. It is therefore important to include the following points in every introduction: the problem being solved requires to be stated concisely followed by a clear discussion about the state of art being handled; for example previous work. One can explain why the current literature is confusing as well as being misunderstood and the errors that have been observed together with their possible sources. The writer should provide an alternative puzzle that has not been explained in the current literature. He/she should mention the essence of his/her contribution regarding the solution to the stated problem. This would help the reader in seeing how the problem is being solved and gain confidence that, after reading the whole paper he/she will learn something. The whole introduction should be made up of just a few paragraphs that do not exceed one page. The introduction to all papers should be concluded with a paragraph that is a “road map” to the rest of the paper. An example is “the details of the paper are as follows. In the first category …”
(Sternberg, 2008) found that, regarding the theory part of the paper, the writer should well express the basic logic of his/her approach without necessarily having reference to the problem that motivated him to his study. This part should be accompanied by short examples as well as useful illustrations. For applied papers, areas are required in solving the problem as stated in the introduction. This part should not provide the actual solution as this should be solved in the following section. As a result, the theory section should contain just a few implications derived by the writer for the approach that is needed in making main points. Even when the writer has a very rich theory, he/she should be sparse with asides as well as additional implications.
According to (Wolcott, 2001), an application part of the paper follows the theory part and is the core of an applied paper. It is in this section that the writer must prove why his/her theory is a solution to the problem and be able to demonstrate the analytical leverage the theory has. It should then be followed by a conclusion to the paper where the main points are stated clearly either in form of a question or an answer. The conclusion can also be in form of a short discussion about the problem as well as the answer to the problem. For example “this paper has illustrated…” The conclusion should be in summary to make it easier for the reader to build the main insight of the writer as well as see why the writer did something that had not been done by anyone else. It is also good for the writer to state a few limitations of his/her argument as well as some additional implications.
The topic of the paper
(Wolcott, 2001) found that, a good topic of any paper is the one that engages the interests of the writer sufficiently so that the writer can sustain enough effort required in producing satisfactory work both to himself/herself and to the instructor. Before the writer chooses a topic, enough preliminary bibliographic research should be done to confirm that there are adequate materials necessary for the paper. These can be online databases especially the recent journals providing reliable information as much as possible. If a paper is about science or social sciences, reliable information can be obtained from peer-reviewed journals that have been examined by other professionals vetting information before publication. The writer should therefore avoid sources such as “discover” and “science news” unless they are leading to good sources. The primary research techniques of the writer should review the literature of his/her topic. If data is obtained from various sources for further analysis, the writer should state his/her criteria why he/she accepts or rejects analysis made by other researchers in a clear statement. The writer should provide an elaborate discussion of all the analytical techniques being used. Academic papers usually have deadlines and if a particular paper is not submitted within the deadline, the paper is penalized and this may result in lowering of the grade.
Rules for formatting
All papers should have a title page that bears the title, the student’s name, the lecture’s name, the name of the course, the date, the number of pages in the text, and the number of tables used in the paper. Unless specified, the whole text including references is double spaced in 12 point size and margins of one inch all around. All the pages should be numbered excluding the title page, the first text page is numbered 1 (Wolcott, 2001).
Outline for research papers
The outline of the paper should develop logically with a similar form as the introduction in being brief. The writer should critically review a research paper already published that relates to the paper he/she is writing. He/she should conclude any limitation he/she encounters in the study. A comparison should be done between the research papers with the findings of others. An efficient research paper should have projections on areas with potentials for future research base on the findings. The writer should properly organize his/her paper avoiding redundancies as well as statements such as “as explained above”. The writer should develop his/her outline headings and use them as section labels in the paper (Wolcott, 2001).
A critical review of concepts
All concepts in paper writings should be reviewed critically with the writer being informed that even when something has been published and the sources referred, the authors could have interpreted their findings wrongly. All the sources should be well examined to confirm the justification of the conclusion of their authors. The writer should look for alternative explanations of his outcomes in the research if they are applicable and give his opinion. This must be based reasonably in consideration with available information. It is wrong for the writer to make assertions that cannot be supported and therefore if the writer wishes to bring a point, there must be specific evidence applying to the point and its relevance should be evaluated (Sternberg, 2008). Statements based on first-hand information or found in the conclusion as well as the writer’s criticism on the published work are not attributed to authors.
According to (Sternberg, 2008), the data presented should be real and not just a mere discussion of the findings of the authors. Direct quotes should be avoided and only used when they are pertinent and covering the important points. Quotation marks should be reserved only for a direct quotation. A research paper should not be made to appear a mystery with so many questions being left unanswered in the mind of the reader. The writer should therefore avoid introducing critical issues near the conclusion of the paper because this makes the conclusion dramatic. The reader should be provided with all relevant information even before the discussion begins for adequate psychological preparation of the reader.
All sources for information not obtained firsthand must be properly cited. If the researcher finds a material that is good enough for consideration at all, then he/she should include it in the main discussion of the research paper. If the material is inadequate for inclusion in the main discussion of the paper, it ought to be omitted anyway. The listing of references should be on what was cited in the main discussion. It should not include sources that were never used even though they were consulted. Names of authors must appear in every reference even when there is multiple publications of the same author. (Valentine, 2004)
Plagiarism is a serious offense that involves both unintentional as well as the intentional use of ideas and words of somebody else without crediting the use. Such a mistake can cause the student to be charged and also suffer severe consequences including being expelled from the institution. If the researcher is a writer, plagiarism can lead to the loss of the job as a writer. The American culture insists so much for the writer to document sources used be it sounds, images, words, or ideas (Valentine, 2004). The writer, therefore, has to develop his/her topic into something that looks original even if when it is based on a concept already said by other researchers.
For a writer to come up with a professional paper and maintain credibility in his work, he/she has to observe most of the rules unless the lecturer requests some alterations of some of these rules. The basic body format has to be followed including good grammar throughout the paper. While some of the rules are very strict and have to be obeyed such as observing 100% tolerance to plagiarism, other rules such as including introduction and conclusion to the research paper can be altered. For example, if the paper is very short, the writer can develop the concepts gradually in away the reader can understand them arewithout necessarily putting them under several sections.
- Sternberg R. (2008): How to Write and Illustrate an academic Paper: Cambridge University Press pp. 43-51
- Materials for Students: Writing the Academic Paper. Web.
- Wolcott H. (2001): Writing up Qualitative Research: Blackwell synergy pp. 56-64
- Barry R. Weingarten: Caltech Rules for Writing Professional Papers.
- Valentine B. (2004): The legitimate effort in research papers Student commitment versus faculty expectations: Elsevier pp. 27-38
- The Research Paper.
- Gregg reference manual online.